by I.A. Schoonmaker

Autobiography of Writer Leading Up To The Settling of Ayrshire

My parents started from Liberty, N.Y., in the year 1855. From there we traveled to Great Bend, Pa. In the year of 1865 we went out to Iowa.

There was ten of us in the family and our journey was made in a wagon drawn by horses.

On August 14, 1865, on my tenth birthday, we crossed the Mississippi River at McGregor and came up to Buchannon County to the town known as Littleton. We stayed there through the winter and in March 1866 we left for Pocahontas County, where my father took up a homestead of 80 acres.

Crossing the River

There were no bridges and we had to cross the Des Moines River on the ice.

We drove to the river and run the wagon on planks from the land to the ice, then we jumped the horses over on the ice. After we had pulled the wagon to the other side, the horses then had to be jumped from the ice back to the shore. The wagon was then pulled upon planks to the other side of the river. This was done on the first day of April, 1866 at Fort Dodge.

The next day we went to Giffon's Grove at Webster City where we stayed until the frost went out of the ground. WE then broke prairie to build a sod house. Our first sod house in Iowa was only large enough for our stove and family.

Abundant Hunting and Fishing

There were plenty of prairie chickens, ducks, geese, deer and elk. Fish could be found in any stream or lake, and this is where I grew up to be what they call a man.

Bad Grasshopper Years.

Shortly after settling down and getting a good crop well on the way, we were attacked by grasshoppers and in four years our crops were taken three times leaving us in a very disastrous condition with 10 in the family to feed.

Our wheat, corn and garden, in fact nearly everything that grew above the ground was entirely wiped out. These were very depressing times for us. Often we never had white bread for six weeks at a time. Much of our bread was from sifted bran and hulls of wheat. This covered a period of ten years from 1866 to 1876.

It was in the spring of 1879 that I was married and took my wife in a covered wagon on a trip further north where we camped on the site of land now known as Ayrshire.

Railroad Built in 1881

Not until 1881 was a railroad attempted to be built. At that time I got a contract to build the grade for the tracks. A railroad was then built from Fort Dodge through Rolfe, Ayrshire and Ruthven on to Spirit Lake.

It was following this when I built the first store in Rolfe, later selling it and moving to Ayrshire.

Ayrshire Settled in 1870

Mr. J.C. Richards came in and settled north of Hamelton who owned the farm where Forest later shot himself. To the East of Richards farm, a man named Phoenix settled on a homestead. Mr. Phoenix later moved to Ruthven.

To the west and north there were about 25 families settled on homesteads all around Silver Lake in Silver Lake Township

Fish Story Way Back When

Now here is a fish story - one day in the spring of 1886, I was training a horse to trot and I drove out to Silver Lake and when I got there I saw a spectacular sight which clings to my memory. There was about two acres of water covered with buffalo fish. They were pushing each other out of the water and onto the bank. So I drove back to Ayrshire and got my four-tined fork and back to the lake I went as fast as the horse could trot. After tying the horse, I ran to the water's edge and with one thrust of the fork, landed a fish so big I could hardly lift it on the fork. The actual weight of it was twenty-five and one quarter pounds. That was a big one that never got away.

Other Settlers

There were three Blanchards and a Webster family east of Ayrshire, John and James Sherlock north east of Ayrshire as soon as the road was built. Mr. Flennigan and Frank Case moved into the eastern section.

Pat O'Grady was the first railroad agent, the first store was owned by Mr. Hall and myself. I later put in the first scales in town and sold the first coal. Following this, I broke some horses and started the first livery stables. A hotel was then built and operated by a man named Pendlebury. During the same time Mr. L.E. Brown started the first lumber yard in Ayrshire. A family of Summerville settled in this community and started a combined hotel and livery which made a good trading post for many years.

More Settlers in Community

It is indeed difficult to name, by memory alone, exactly those moving in at the time they did during the short time I was in this county, but I shall try not to miss anyone and if I do- I pray you will forgive me.

There were two Pilkerton brothers located north of Ayrshire. North west of town there were two Bink brothers, a Williamson family, James and Kate Dorerty and Fred Karley adjoining town also on the northwest.

Fred Bratmiller resided south of town and two brothers, Chas. and Walt Sawyers also lived on the south side of Ayrshire.

North of where Sawyers lived was settled by a man and family named Forest. Mr. Forest later shot himself and I was on the scene when his wife found him.

Fred Mortimer lived on the farm south east of Ayrshire.

Lou and Frank Wright lived south east of the Forest farm.

There were some of the earliest settlers who had moved away when I started to build in 1882. I remember one family by the name of Dickerman and there were two boys in this family who lived just east of Forest.

The April the early settlers came into this country many of them came from Wisconsin and Whitman with two son-in-laws came from Manchester, in the eastern part of the state.

Mr. E.L. Brown and family moved to Colorado in the fall of 1887 and James Hall went there at the same time.

I moved there in 1888, then came back, sold out to George Pendlebury and the following winter shoveled oats for Pat O'Grady at Ayrshire. Then I went to Pomeroy staying there until August 12th. On that date I returned to Colorado.

When I left Ayrshire in 1888 there was two livery stables, a blacksmith shop run by Cal Hubbard and two hotels. A few had moved in during this time with which I were not acquainted. A man by the name of Joe Kibbie and a couple of Maguire brothers moved in in 1888.

In the fall of 1879 was the first time I was ever at Silver Lake. Just before corn husking, I went to the south end of the lake and on a large hill, owned by Grandfather Whitman at the time, was about 100 sandhill cranes and plenty of white cranes too. Wild geese and gray and white brants were very thick here at times.

The crane family is nearly gone, but I merely mention this for the sake of young hunters.

Following is the names of a few of those who settled around Ayrshire in the early days:

Grandfather Whitman, George Pendlebury, Levi Hill, Lehanes family, Seymore Morison, E.D. Treat, Crip Noble, John Body, Mr. King, Mr. Cald, Mr. Lyons, Pat Clair, H.I. Snow, Pat and Jim Owens, Mr. Johnson, Dave Moris, James and Kate Dorety, Mr. Phil Kertins and Mr. Shurlock.


The above was contributed by Dean Dannewitz who says:

...as I was going through my tons of genealogy material accumulated over the past 50 years, I ran across the attached History of Ayrshire, Iowa and wondered if you had ever run across it before.  It was written by Ira Schoonmaker who was a bona fide pioneer of Ayrshire and surrounding areas and at times published the newspaper in Ayrshire - among doing other things.  His son, Glenn Schoonmaker married my oldest sister and I may have come upon it through that relationship.  But then I have many relationships dating from that period of time so I am not certain.

I am Dean V. Dannewitz, youngest son of John and Edna Pendlebury Dannewitz and I was born in Emmetsburg in 1928 and lived there for 15 years before moving to Jackson, Minnesota. George H. Pendlebury who homesteaded in Great Oak Township in 1873 was my grandfather and a pioneer who ran the first hotel in Ayrshire, was postmaster and into a lot of things.  Incidentally he was also among those who took in orphans from New York City when someone shipped a train load of orphans to Iowa.  George married Ella Whitman, daughter of Gilbert Vander Whitman, another name you will see frequently in the history of Palo Alto County.